Telling Stories through Photography

When I started these notes, I wanted to record explorations of a near-desert caught in the winds of the mountains far inland from the sea. The salmon, I thought, were the ones to make it clear that this land is also the shore of the sea. They are. The process of assembling evidence for a book of united science and literature about place has given me an unexpected gift. Now I see the story. It is made out of water and light.


Water and the Sun, five billion years on.

Photography works like photosynthesis, carrying energy from one side of a barrier to another, in this case from the moment of observation to the moment of reading. Like photosynthesis, it moves energy, and stores it. That is the story of water in this world, as well.

Here is the first principle of earth writing, which I have drawn from this experience: if you start from the building blocks of the earth, you will find the earth they have built. If you start from a photograph — an image of light and of a human — and tell its story, you will tell a story that is an image of light. The human you will tell will be light as well, even when that light appears dimmed by fog and seemingly without a human in sight:


Icelandic Sheep in the Rain, Seyδisfjördur

Dim or strong, the spiritual energy of light is not diminished. Photographs are spiritual records. They create representations of both the world and a human state of mind — especially those points at which they are the same thing.

The writing of the future is writing that will either accommodate the earth within its processes or continue to turn from her. Telling this story in mixed words and light holds some hope for the path of the earth in this time of environmental peril. Perhaps we could call this approach logosynthesis. At any rate, writers have turned from her from too long. It is time to go home. That’s why I’m in Iceland this spring.

Next: pictures from the north.

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